Hello, helloooo dearest friends! Hope this blog post finds you well. Holy days are upon us: Passover on Friday and Easter on Sunday, in a rare occurrence of those two holidays coinciding on the same weekend. Cool!
So I was perusing art images of crucifixion and resurrection, the majority of which are faithful, reverent depictions of Biblical events. All brilliant, painstaking works of art that are masterpieces of traditional painting. But I decided to post a more unconventional work by an appropriately unconventional man – French Post-Impressionist/Symbolist painter Paul Gauguin. I always find it interesting when an artist gives a traditional, religious subject an unorthodox treatment. Not degradingly unorthodox, but something unique and unusual in how it employs artistic elements.
Gauguin’s 1889 work, The Yellow Christ, is an example of an artwork that boldly deviates from a realistic, “documentary” style recounting of an event, in this case Christ’s crucifixion. Instead, Gauguin depicts the scene using simplified shapes, bold lines, flat forms, and colors that are not naturalistic. He bathes the Christ figure, and much of the background, in yellow, a pigment one normally associates with cheerfulness and warmth. However, contrary to its reputation, yellow can also have an agitating effect when viewed with focus and intensity, which makes Gauguin’s choice even more intriguing.
Also, look closely at the face of Christ in this painting. It is the face of Gauguin himself. Now Gauguin was certainly not the only painter to insert his own likeness onto a figure. But this is no ordinary figure. This is Christ. Would it be unfair of us then to infer that Gauguin had something of a martyr complex? Probably not.
The Yellow Christ was painted in Pont-Aven in the Brittany region of France. Indeed, the women in the scene are portrayed by Gauguin as Breton women, not the Biblical Marys we expect to see in this narrative. And the landscape appears more like the French countryside than the rocks of Calvary. But accuracy was not Gauguin’s concern, nor should it be a concern of any artist. Gauguin’s sensibilities famously gravitated toward the primitive, the unrefined, the unspoiled. His version of the crucifixion here is both odd and striking. The Christ is disturbingly gaunt but he is also dominant in the setting. Some, not all, of the old masterworks of the crucifixion scene are cluttered and busy, whereas Gauguin’s is stark, direct, and vivid. Simplified.
You can examine, compare and contrast other art crucifixion paintings at this gallery. In the meantime, have a joyous weekend my Museworthy friends. Peace and blessings to each and every one of you. See you next week 🙂